Animation Guru John Lasseter in his toy-appointed office at Pixar Animation Studios. Photo © Deborah Coleman / Pixar

How often has this happened to you? Your company sends you on a field trip to visit a client. You are met at the front desk, ushered past the nicely appointed reception room, and back into the main hub of the business. You pass through a spacious area full of cubicles, and that’s where you get an idea of the heart of the organization. Because now, every step you take, reveals another bit of decoration hanging from those cubicle walls. And every one of these knick-knacks says something specific about that employee—and by extension, the company as well. From the Dr. Who T.A.R.D.I.S. cookie jar, to the various local sports team calendars, to the poster for the upcoming school play, there is a wealth of personal information to glean and to use in building connections with your clients. You will be able to accomplish the same result by guiding your clients through your offices, using clever and creative employment displays to influence and impress.

WHAT DO EMPLOYEE DECORATIONS SAY ABOUT YOUR COMPANY?

On the surface, there is nothing intrinsically wrong about someone personalizing the space they will be inhabiting for about half of their daily waking hours. After all, pictures of the spouse and children (sometimes routinely updated) make for an affectionate display. Seasonal decorations add bursts of color and a sense of communal togetherness for a company. While some employees can go overboard with their approach to highlighting certain of their favorite interests (think garish overuse of commercially available, space-themed, action-figure products), in most instances, employee decorations are tasteful and well within the parameters of decorum whether your company has published a set list of such parameters or not.

No question that clever arrangements of trinkets in cubicles and offices can enhance the work environment. The trick is to keep some sense of unity and direction in all the ebb and flow of material. The direction all starts with you, as owner and chief bric-a-brac buyer.

MAKING USE OF YOUR PERSONAL INTERESTS AND COLLECTIONS.

Some owners hire outside interior design firms to come in and turn the empty walls of their new company into a sparkling array of lopsided sculptures and gaudy paintings of questionable lineage. All so expensive, and all so unnecessary. Depending on the size of your company and the number of your employees, you can tie-in your main corporate decorations to a common theme, and still let your employees “go wild” in their personal spaces. There might even be a budding interior decorator already in your employ—someone who would be happy to take on the extra responsibility of putting up and re-storing all the streamers, faux leaves, and Smiling Santas that need to be rotated throughout the year.

Do you have something you collect yourself? A certain era in American History perhaps or a particular style of African or South American Art? If you already have some items in your collection, that might be a good start. Since we can assume you know the market, you would be a good judge of what to spend on certain items within your office decorating budget. Not only would this be a perfect way to make your new digs more comfortable for you as the head of the company, but it is also a fun way to expand your collection and possibly get a tax deduction at the same time (though you may want to confirm that with your tax consultant before you start buying!).

Few people knew that Hollywood He-man Star John Wayne had a personal collection of Navajo Kachina Dolls on display in his office.

DECORATIONS THAT HIGHLIGHT CLIENT PRODUCTS ARE A PLUS.

Usually, a company does not work with multiple clients who are in competition with each other, but it can happen. An insurance company may insure several local car dealerships or an advertising agency may work with competing local supermarkets. In such cases, it would be advisable not to display client-specific decorations, so that feelings don’t get offended and deals don’t get short-cut!  But, if you have one particular client who does a lot of business with your company (and brings several of their middle managers around for regular meetings), you can show your appreciation by arranging well thought-out displays of their products, complete with advertising posters. You may even add photos of these clients with you and your employees from a previous meeting or possibly from an industry convention or dinner. Anything that might help cement your relationship with them should be considered.

If your client has a company with a long run in the business, consider trolling thrift shops or go on ebay in search of some vintage advertising material for that company. Clients will be very impressed if you and your employees can discuss the history of their company with more than a little knowledge and appreciation. An hour spent online checking their company websites or blogs can uncover a wealth of knowledge that you can use to your advantage in creating displays and approaching meetings. It would be a rare client indeed who wouldn’t take notice if you tied in a new business proposal with something the client’s father or grandfather did “back in the day” with a similar vendor.

Finding vintage ads for your top client’s companies, and displaying them on your office walls, could help cement a long-lasting relationship.

TO SUM UP.

We’ve really only scratched the surface on the topic of getting the maximum effect out of decorating your company office and personal spaces. We will be posting additional columns on this topic in the coming weeks, so please check back, and follow us on this blog! We’ll be looking for you!